Abuja - The minister of sports, Bolaji Abdullahi, on Wednesday expressed the Federal Government’s confidence in coach Stephen Keshi leading the Super Eagles to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Abdullahi said this after briefing the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on the Golden Eaglets’ victory in the just-concluded World U-17 soccer championship and the Super Eagles' qualification for the World Cup in Brazil.
He, however, said that government would oblige Keshi additional technical support in form of foreign technical assistant, if he so request.
The minister said Keshi had to a large extent, done a good job since he took over the handling of the team.
He said his ministry was reviewing the team's recent matches against the Ethiopian in Calabar and the Italian national teams in London.
"We played two matches in the last couple of weeks one in Calabar and the one in London against the Italian national team.
``If you look at the two games, you can see that the profiles are different. Of course, the competitions are different, but also the games are different in terms of approaches.
"We have received reports from outsiders but we are going to sit down with the coaches to review all these.
"We will be open to reviewing all options and if coach Keshi, whom we believe has done very good job to put this team together from AFCON up to this time, if he feels he needs additional technical support, we are going to give it to him.
"But we believe we are confident that he is capable of doing the job and if there are issues we can always talk about it.
"We have confidence in his ability to lead the team to the World Cup,’’ he said.
On the salaries being owed to coaches, Abdullahi said he had made representation to appropriate authorities to intervene.
Abdullahi said the increase in payments of match bonuses to the team was responsible for the inability of the Football House to pay the salaries of the coaches.
"If I may tell you, one of the major reasons the federation has found it difficult to meet some of its obligations is that success in sports comes with enormous price.
"Unlike in the past when the national teams were not winning, now we have won almost every single game.
"For every single game they win, you have to pay match bonuses and match bonuses cannot wait, it should be paid immediately.
"So, when you are drawing from the same pool of fund to pay the match bonuses and the commitment that keeps piling up, then it becomes very difficult for you to meet some of these statutory obligations.
"We believe all these things should have been done differently, but we are working toward addressing that and very soon it will be done with,’’ he said.
Abdullahi described the death of a Golden Eaglet, Friday Njengo, as tragic, and assured that the Federal Government would do the right things for the family.
"On the issue of the player, Friday Njengo that unfortunately died after the accident is really tragic to us because this is a young man with such a bright prospect.
"Since all players on national teams are insured, the family will be paid the insurance proceeds.
"In addition, the federation will also reach out to the bereaved family after the burial and think of what to do to assist,’’ he said.
Earlier, while briefing the council, Abdullahi had said that the Golden Eaglets did not just win the tournament, but also set a new goal record in FIFA organised competition by scoring a total of 26 goals.
He said the team also left the tournament with the Fair-Play Award, the Most Valuable Player Award, the Golden Glove Award and the Silver Boot Award.
"I want to emphasise that the only reason we did not win the Golden Boot was that unlike other countries where only one striker was doing the goal scoring, for the Golden Eaglets, the 26 goals were scored by nine different players,’’ he said.
He also recalled that earlier in January, the Nigerian Super Eagles won the African Cup of Nations for the first time after 19 years.
The minister said Nigeria holds the record of the African champion in athletic senior, youth and junior.
"This is the first time in the history of African athletics that one country will hold these three athletic titles at the same time.
He said with all the achievements, Jonathan had become the most successful president ever in Nigerian sporting history.
Abdullahi expressed the confidence that with the 2014 World Cup and the Commonwealth Game also coming up in 2014 in Glasgow, there was the possibility for extending the record higher.